6 reasons PR pros are perfect for social media

In 6 PR and social media predictions for 2013 author Sandra Fathi says public relations will win the battle over which corporate discipline “owns” social media. Hear, hear!

Digital and mobile technologies continue to transform the PR practice. The lines separating PR, marketing, branding, advertising, and customer service are blurry indeed in social media. Do PR professionals have the right skills for the brave new social world? Absolutely – and here’s why.

We are experienced storytellers.

Social media requires us to create, curate, and share engaging and relevant stories. Brand journalism, otherwise known as content marketing, is not new to us. PR pros have always told stories using a range of communication styles and media. Many of us are former journalists. We can turn rocks into newsworthy features (true story). Social media is another way to tell and share our stories.

Just as we have practiced our written and digital communications, we need to develop our skills in social and visual content. Videographers, photographers and graphic designers are having their 15 minutes of fame right now. Businesses have become media companies and talented digital storytellers are essential for social success.

We are expert communicators.

While visual storytelling skills are important, writing skills are essential for social media. Conversations happen in words. Several colleagues have told me that writing was not the focus of their marketing degrees. As a journalism student, I lost 50 percent for every error in my news reports. My copy had to be clean. It only took one zero mark to make me a candidate for Grammatical Pedantry Syndrome.

PR pros are experienced writers, editors, and proofreaders. These skills transfer nicely to blog posts, tweets, status updates, and conversations.

We always aim to be relevant.

Social media is about being timely, interesting, and relevant. PR pros are experienced in creating content relevant to a specific audience. Whether we are pitching to a journalist or producing a newsletter for staff members, our audience determines the type of content we share.

Social media provides us with excellent tools to better understand our publics and communicate with our stakeholders. Become part of your social networks and get to know what your customers need and want from you.

We are experienced in relationship building.

Relationships have always been the focus of PR practice. Whether we are building relationships with journalists or stakeholders, we use communications to maintain good relations. Our professional contacts are often developed via phone and email— and now social media—without meeting face-to-face.

Social media is all about relationships. We are experienced in managing relationships with people we have never met, accustomed to finding information fast, and highly skilled in customer service.

We know crisis communications.

PR pros are trained in issues management and crisis communications. These skills are vital in successfully managing a social media crisis. In my experience, the same principles apply. You need to get your company’s voice into the conversation as fast as possible, respond to any questions, correct misinformation, and be as helpful as possible. Our skills in relationship and reputation management are well-suited to handling viral activity.

We have always sought feedback.

Gaining feedback about our company’s profile and reputation was always a challenge. We would run surveys and focus groups to gain insights into stakeholder concerns and public perceptions. Not anymore.

Social media is like an instant focus group. We can ask questions, gain feedback, and have conversations in real-time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can draw on social feedback to inform future communications, create positive organisational change, and improve our customer experience.

This post was originally published by PR Daily. Here’s the original post: 6 reasons PR pros should manage social media

 


Amsterdam

Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media

Is your organisation truly social?

This was one of questions raised at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam. Edelman Digital‘s Marshall Manson presented three models for creating social organisations.

The first was the centralised model we are all familiar with. Social media is managed by a central division and provides the official voice of the organisation in each channel. We like this model because it’s relatively easy to manage. But let’s face it – it’s not very social. Too often social media is seen as a channel for promoting key messages (yawn).

I think the centralised model has become out-dated. As Marshall pointed out, we now live in a world where regular employees and ‘a person like yourself’ have more credibility – and therefore influence – than CEOs. So, let’s empower our regular employees to have a corporate voice.

Marshall presented two decentralised models – and it’s this type of model that really intrigues me. Imagine the central division being surrounded by employees who are building social relationships and online communities. There is two-way flow between central division and these trained brand ambassadors, who are blogging and tweeting and engaging people with the brand in different ways.

Disney uses a decentralised model and Disney Destinations’ social media director Thomas Smith said all Disney’s senior managers blog. One manager is in charge of floral arrangements at Disney. So she blogs about flowers. And guess what? She has built a social community of people who love flowers and now engage with the Disney brand because talking about flowers has made it relevant.

What are the benefits of a decentralised model?

More brand noise

How does one official twitter account compare with 25 brand ambassadors tweeting? Enough said.

More compelling content

With employees blogging regularly about their areas of expertise, your company will produce more diverse, interesting content. Content is still king. With two-way flow between central division and your brand ambassadors, imagine all the fresh, compelling content available for your marketing strategy.

More relevance

A decentralised ‘many voices’ model enables your brand to connect with people who may never have engaged otherwise. Relevance is key in the social world. Disney makes a great case in point.

More savvy employees

Social media training is critical to this model. Dell’s Simone Versteeg said the company has two types of employees – those who are official brand ambassadors and those who are just plain social. Employees choose what they want to be and there are guidelines and training for both.

More speed in a crisis

We no longer have the luxury of time in crisis communications. What happens if the employee responsible for the official account is at lunch when the 140 character news breaks? Your trained brand ambassadors will be monitoring social networks too and can quickly be the voice of your organisation.

More feedback

A recent survey found 70 per cent of social media complaints are ignored. Using a decentralised model enables employees to engage in direct social dialogue with consumers. Why do we want to respond to feedback? To improve the way we do business.

More innovation

Employees may have very creative ideas for social media. Dutch airline KLM, for example, has introduced an opt-in service enabling passengers to select their seat based on shared Facebook profiles. Imagine all the social ideas your employees have right now that you can experiment with.

What are your thoughts about using a decentralised social media model?

This article was originally written for Trevor Young as guest post for his PR Warrior blog. Here’s the original post: Seven reasons why companies should decentralise social media. I recommend you follow @trevoryoung on Twitter because he’s awesome.


Eight ways to create refrigerator journalism

I recently heard a term that has really stuck with me: refrigerator journalism.

It was used by Ragan Communication’s CEO and publisher of PR Daily Mark Ragan at the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit (SMPR2012) in Amsterdam.

During his opening presentation on brand journalism (aka content marketing) Mark said the Holy Grail is when our content becomes part of people’s daily lives.

If your company is recognised as a respected news source – journalists come to you rather than you chasing them – you’ve made it. @PRDaily is an excellent case in point.

@MarkRaganCEO said our goal as company reporters is to create refrigerator journalism.

What is refrigerator journalism? It is content so engaging you want to make it part of your daily life. You want to share it with your friends. You want to talk about it. You want to take it into your home. It is content so compelling, so relevant and so brief you want to stick it on your fridge.

There were many other useful take-outs from the two-day SMPR2012. Learning about the strategies of global brands like Microsoft, Dell, Edelman and Disney was awe-inspiring. Notes to self: do more planning, more monitoring, more video.

It was reiterated by all presenters that content is still king – in fact, engaging content is more important than ever. So the question I’ll now ask myself each time I publish is simple: Is this content so compelling my readers will want to stick it on the fridge?

So, how do we create refrigerator journalism? Here are my top eight take-outs from SMPR2012:

1. Your new role is Senior Content Creator. Your job description includes content producer, company reporter, conversation starter and community manager.

2. Plan your editorial activities like you run a media company. You own a daily newspaper (blog), magazine (website), TV station (YouTube channel), radio station (podcasts) and a broadcast network (social media).

3. Don’t be afraid to re-package compelling content and cross promote.

4. Great content needs a great headline (hint: readers love lists).

5. Engage your whole company in social media. There are brand ambassadors throughout your organisation who are passionate about their area of expertise. Find them and get them blogging.

6. Social content doesn’t have to be slick – in fact, if it looks too much like an advertisement people won’t share it.

7. If content is king, then listening is queen. But why are we listening? To make changes to the way we do business if necessary.

8. No one is an expert in social media, we are all experimenting. Don’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes. We are only limited by our imaginations and our creativity.

This article was originally published by the Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA). I was the only Australian delegate at this international conference, so I wanted to share my key take-outs with other PR professionals. Here’s the original post on the PRIA blog: Eight ideas for creating refrigerator journalism


Richmond Bridge, Tasmania

Changing times

I recently had a conversation with a communications professional that completely surprised me. It went something like this…

Me: I’m experimenting with Pinterest at the moment.

Response: What’s Pinterest?

Me: [A little shocked … okay, what about Facebook …] 

Me: Facebook could be used as our primary communication channel for students because 100 per cent of them are there, but they may not check their email.

Response: Really? I’m not on Facebook, I never really got into it.

Me: [almost falls off chair… speechless … WHAT?!]

This conversation made me realise that professional communicators are at very different stages of embracing digital media, whether it’s online, new or social media. It made me reflect on my 15 year professional journey, from traditional print journalist to ever-evolving PR strategist.

When I had my first article published in 1996 the internet had only existed for seven years (Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web in 1989). I used to deliver my features to the editor of Nova Magazine on a floppy disc. Did I not have email? Actually I don’t remember, but that’s how I submitted my work. In person. Face-to-face. Hand delivered.

Back then public relations was basically about writing press releases and trying to get journalists to run your story. If you got your story in the first three pages of the daily newspaper, you would probably get radio and maybe TV if you had an interesting idea for visual footage. So, that was your goal.

How things have changed!

Then: 24 hour news cycle
Now: 140 character news cycle
Then: Daily newspapers set the news agenda
Now: News breaks on Twitter first
Then: Journalists held the publishing power
Now: Anyone with access to the internet can publish
Then: Social media didn’t exist
Now: If you’re not on social media, you don’t exist

My number one tip to anyone starting out in PR is to make a commitment to ongoing professional development. Keep learning. Keep changing. Keep growing. Otherwise, you really will be left behind.

What’s the one tip you would give to PR graduates starting out? 


London calling

I went to Europe with my mum and her best friend when I was three years old. I have five memories of that trip: the entrance to one room in the Tower of London, the house where we stayed in London, a street in Italy, a roadside in Germany and the grey of Buckingham Palace.

They are like very short films – snapshots of strange moments in time.

And now, on the eve of my 40th birthday, I am finally going back to Europe. I have wanted to go since I was a teenager. After I left home at 17 I was a traveler. I’ve lived in Byron Bay, Sydney, far north Queensland, India, Fremantle, Darwin and now Melbourne. I’ve been to Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. But I didn’t make it to Europe. My one-way ticket to London via Delhi in 1995 became a return flight to Australia to get married.

And with the birth of my son in 1996, my traveling abruptly ended and my career journey began. I have spent the past 15 years studying and working to build a successful career in communications and provide my son with the best education I could. But high quality education comes at a price and I haven’t needed a passport for more than a decade. With my son now in Year 11, the time to dust off my backpack is coming soon. In fact, out of the blue, it has just arrived.

I am attending the 2012 International Social Media and PR Summit in Amsterdam on April 11 and 12. The speakers are brilliant – Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post UK, and Stephanie L. Schierholz, NASA’s social media manager,  just to name two.

I wouldn’t know about this conference if not for social media. It is being organised by @PRDaily, based in the US, and has reached me in Melbourne through twitter. This is no surprise. Such is the  power of digital PR. I follow @MarkRaganCEO and not only does he tweet great content, he also took the time to comment in my blog. My registration is evidence that interaction is indeed the key to consumer engagement through social media.

It is also no surprise that my dream trip to Europe has come through my career. Maybe it is reward for all the hard work I have undertaken in the past and continue to undertake every day. I am incredibly grateful to have a manager who values my work and is prepared to invest in me. And I’m taking a little of my own time to visit London and Paris… again.  Bon voyage! 


For the love of technology

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful … that’s what matters to me.” Steve Jobs, Wall Street Journal, 1993

I’ve been thinking recently about the late Steve Jobs and his contributions to the world. Following his sad passing on October 5, much has been written on the subject of his legacy. So, I’d like to add my voice to the conversation.

I was born in the 70s and grew up in the 80s. The threat of nuclear war was very real to me during my childhood. It seemed all it would take is one press of a button and we would all be gone. At school, we read classics like 1984 by George Orwell and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Well, it was 1984 now and that brave new world was on its way.

It was a time before Microsoft, before the Internet, before mobile phones. We had the most basic computers in high school. Black screens with green text that you could program with simple commands. Enter ‘cat’ = show ‘meow’, or something to that effect.

For me, the 80s were all about – forgetting Madonna for a moment – the ‘greed is good’ ideology, the birth of the yuppie, and scientists mentioning climate change (or global warming as it was called then) for the very first time. I moved to Sydney in 1992 to work for Greenpeace and try to save the planet from capitalism. Technology seemed like a very scary thing. Like something I didn’t want. One day robots would take over the world. And ultimately us with them.

So, fast forward to 2011 and it is surprising to find that I can’t live without technology. I am excited to see where we take technology into the future. And robots? Love them.

What I believe Jobs contributed to my generation was to move the masses from a place of fearing technology to embracing it. And not just embracing it, but adoring it. It was a revolutionary shift. For me, Jobs changed technology from something sinister and evil into something I wanted. Very much. Like right now, if not sooner. And keep it coming, please.

When my service provider offered me the first iPhone in 2008, I initially said no thanks. The sales representative sounded shocked. So I rang my Generation Z son to check I’d made the right decision. “Do I want to upgrade to an iPhone?” I asked him. “Um yes, of course you do, is this a trick question?” he asked.

So I upgraded. And through this sweet little gadget, Jobs made me fall in love with technology. Now, I had used technology before in my work, of course, but I never loved Microsoft Office. I used it because I had to. But through the iPhone, I started to appreciate technology’s power, its beauty and its potential. The online world, especially social media, was suddenly much more fun.

As a writer, with a print background, I entered cyberspace with trepidation. But now I live in it. We can self publish and that’s amazing. We can interact and connect with our readers like never before. I can sit in a train and read a blog post by a writer on the other side of the world. I can edit my blog, share my posts and respond to your comments on my iPad. On the move and anywhere I choose. And it’s really only just begun.